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Tech upgrades planned for Pickens campuses

“Just like adults, when students want to know something they google it. They don’t march down to the library,” says administrator


    JMS Math Team -- Pictured (l-r) Bethany Carver, parents Jacqueline and Mickey Carver; Olivia Fountain, parents Cynthia and Mark Fountain; Miles Gregg, parents Edie and Dennis Gregg; John Hendricks, parents Kaye and Joe Hendricks; and Garrett Thompson, parents Amy and Christopher Thompson. They are pictured with teachers Carol Wilson (right) and Tammy Duncan and Principal Neil Howell.
    Math team members not pictured: Katherine Densmore, parents Mary Katherine and Chris Densmore; Peyton Harrington, parents Suzanne and Donnie Harrington; Thomas Pinson, parents Judy and Brian Pinson 

     Pickens school campuses will see technology upgrades rolling out this spring based on reports given at the school board meeting Thursday.


    The board gave approval to take bids on a list of technology improvements, mostly centered around expanding wireless access to the internet for student laptops, tablets and smartphones. The bids are expected to come in somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000.
    Susan Reeves, who is involved in several school departments including technology, explained to the board that the “data infrastructure” at many campuses is as old as the schools themselves.
    The problem with the outdated technology is that it hampers high-tech learning as students can’t log on to the internet when on campus from personal devices. She said due to the limited broad-band capacity, students must “unplug” when they get on campus. There is currently only adequate wireless capacity for teachers and staff.
    In a follow-up interview, Reeves said expanding wireless capability will allow the students to use the internet as a educational tool. “Just like adults, when students want to know something they google it,” she said. “They don’t march down to the library.”
    Reeves estimated about 50 percent of high school students currently bring some type of wireless ready technology product to campus everyday “but this will probably go up after Christmas.” The percentage of connected students drops with the grade level -- not many elementary students take tablets or smartphones to school.
    The first step in the ambitious upgrade plan is to get the wireless infrastructure in place. Then the schools will look at expanding access to devices that can access the internet for students that don’t have personal laptops, smartphones or tablets.
    Reeves said the emphasis on the expanding internet access is “improving what students can do with technology.” She said all curriculum is moving away from “cramming students’ heads with facts” towards teaching how to go out and gather data online.
    “No one expects a student to be able to recite the Declaration of Independence, but we do expect them to know there was a Declaration of Independence and how to find it,” she said.
    Also up for bid will be cell repeaters for campuses where poor coverage makes cell phones useless. Reeves said neither the Pickens High nor Tate campus have adequate cell coverage. This could be a problem in an emergency situation.        Superintendent Ben Desper referred to this project as a major endeavor.
    In other news from Thursday’s meeting:
    • Feed the Family Project expands – Hill City Elementary Vice Principal Joeta Youngblood said the 2nd Annual Thanksgiving day meal offered at the school to anyone in the community who wants to come and eat will be bigger than last year.
    She said last year they served 750 at the school and more with deliveries. She said this year, they will do more in delivery as there is a need for the free Thanksgiving meal at many homes in the county – more than they had initially realized.
    She said the organizers for this community event didn’t recognize the depth of the need until they started distributing fliers to homes where the owners may not get a newspaper or have television. She said they have already taken 175 calls from people inquiring about the free meal that will be delivered on Thanksgiving Day.
    • Bus Driver Training – The school recently held a bus driver training class. Of the 30 people who enrolled, only eight finished, which shows how rigorous the training is, reported Rick Little, the director of operations.
    • The schools reported 56 subpoenas had been sent for truancy court and seven citations given to adults for truancy issues.
    •  Cross country athletes from both Jasper Middle and Pickens County Middle were recognized, see Sports page.    

Math team from JMS recognized
    The Berry College 6th Grade Math Contest for the Fall 2012 semester was held October 23.  Fourteen 6th grade teams from public and private schools throughout North Georgia competed.  The top team, coming in 1st place was – Jasper Middle School.
     The competition consisted of a written test, a ciphering portion, and a set of five team questions.  
    Garrett Thompson placed 1st in the individual competition. 
     Congratulations to Jasper Middle School students on this important win, and special thanks to sixth grade math teachers Carol Wilson and Tammy Duncan.


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